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Jets Fill a Void for Kids at Toys-R-Us


The Jets may not give much to opposing teams on the football field as the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense, but off the field they're all about giving back.

Led by ninth-year defensive end Marques Douglas, several players met up at the Toys-R-Us in Livingston, N.J., to take a few kids on a shopping spree. Part of Generation Jets Academy — an after-school program that provides students with personalized attention from caring and creative teachers — the elementary students were from P.S. 306 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"The spirit of Christmas is about giving back," said Douglas, who donated $200 gift cards for the children. "The Marques Douglas Foundation teamed up with the Jets organization and provided these kids with gift cards so they could have Christmas a little early."

Thirty-five children ages 5-13 teamed up in groups of four to five per player. Also on hand for the Jets were David Clowney, Vernon Gholston, Wallace Wright, Kenwin Cummings, Drew Coleman and Mike DeVito.

Still feeling like a child, Clowney was having as much fun as the kids while riding on a scooter around the store.

"One of the reasons I'm as happy as the kids are is because I wasn't able to go inside Toys-R-Us and pick any toy that I wanted," said Clowney, reflecting on his childhood. "I broke down in tears my first pair of Jordans I got, and those were in high school."

The second-year receiver also tried to give some tips to a little boy that may have aspirations to get out on the field himself when he grows up.

"One kid got a football," said Clowney. "I told him I play receiver so he wants me to work with him a little bit. I'm going to try and get his hands right, try to work with him on catching the ball."

The children had to learn to budget a little with their $200. They had smiles from ear to ear as they stuffed their shopping carts with their favorite items.

"Once we got to the video games," said Gholston, "they kind of held a little dispute in terms of 'What game should I get? Should I put this one back to get this?' That threw a loophole in the plan, but we were able to get through it and leave happy."

"The most popular toy had to be the Nintendo DS," said Douglas. "It seemed like everybody wanted it. It was a little expensive but at the same time a couple of kids bought it."

Getting what they want is something that the children from the inner city borough are not used to being able to do.

"Most of these children when they come in the store, they're picking up things and their parents are saying 'another time' or 'we cant afford this right now,' " said Patricia Thompson, Generation Jets Academy program supervisor. "But tonight they were able to go around and pick things that they like and get it, and have a smile on their face. I'm in there with them working every day, and some smiles that I've seen tonight I haven't seen in a long time."

The children were so excited with getting presents that it was hard for some of them to embrace the moment that a professional football player was with them. But that's something that Thompson said will stick with them, something that she'll continue to hear about in the coming weeks.

"Their excitement shifted from us to 'What can I get for my sisters and brothers?' " said Douglas. "That's what I'm surprised about. It wasn't just about themselves they wanted to find things for family members. You can't really shop for mom and dad here but you can shop for brother and sister."

That giving spirit that the children are developing now is what Christmas is all about.

"A lot of children unfortunately don't have the right role models," said Matt Pielli, director of after-school programs for the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service. "The Jets are filling that void today and hopefully that will carry on."

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